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Representation of Tralfamadorian Time, and Human Time in Slaughterhouse-Five: Analytical Essay

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Describe the way Time is used in the novel. What might the author be saying about the way people conceive of time?

In Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut displays two types of time, Tralfamadorian time, and Human time. At the beginning of the novel, Tralfamadorian time appears far superior to human time, with the ability to relive any moment of your life like a movie and seemingly never die. As the novel progresses, through Billy’s storytelling, the reader starts to realize that Tralfamadorian time has some major downsides and that human time should be celebrated for what it is. Tralfamadorians ignore the bad moments in their life and strictly focus on the good memories while humans must suffer through the pain. This may seem like a downside, but in the end, the human gains knowledge and learns from their mistakes while the Tralfamadorian does not. Additionally, in Tralfamadorian time, cause and effect mean nothing. When Billy asks why he was taken from Earth, he questions a Tralfamadorian who explains: “That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber? …Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.” (Vonnegut ibook pg 156). This is scary to think about for humans because if there is no cause or effect, then free will does not exist, therefore, no one can choose to do anything and everyone is essentially a machine. Billy shows that he has no free will by boarding a plane that he already knows is going to crash. In Billy’s mind, he is already on the plane, and will always board the plane because that is how the moment was structured. Kurt Vonnegut is using Billy’s ridiculous decisions to imply that free will is logical due to our linear time, and that in any moment, we can do whatever we please. Billy could have simply not boarded the plane but Vonnegut is trying to teach the reader an important value about human time and freedom. Vonnegut’s message to the reader is that all humans should live in the moment and each day of our life has value because we will never be able to live in it again.

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Discuss the Dehumanizing features of the novel. What sort of idea is the author trying to say about the ways we treat each other’s?

One of the main themes of Slaughterhouse-Five is dehumanization which is demonstrated through the poor treatment of humans and the ignorant view of human death. Dehumanization is especially evident in the POWs during Billy Pilgrim’s World War Two experiences where we see the Germans treating their prisoners like animals. In chapter three, while Billy and Weary are on their way to a German POW camp, the Germans have begun to lack the needed space for all of their prisoners. Instead of making more room, the Germans force the POWs to live inside a train car. Whilst living in the train car, all of the prisoners were fed through the ventilators in the train car, “Human beings in there were excreting into steel helmets which were passed to the people at the ventilators, who dumped them. Billy was a dumper. The human beings also passed canteens, which guards would fill with water. When food came in, the human beings were quiet and trusting and beautiful. They shared.” (Vonnegut p. 90). Forcing all of the POWs to live in a dirty train car and go to the bathroom in a helmet demonstrates just how dehumanizing and cruel the war was. To the Germans, the Americans were not equals, they were just meaningless numbers. Vonnegut is trying to express that war makes people forget that everyone is also a human trying to survive in this world. Another way Slaughterhouse-Five dehumanizes people is by ignoring the importance of death. For Tralfamadorians, death is not relevant or meaningful because they can always relive any moment from their life, hence the phrase “so it goes”, following each death in the novel. For humans, death is the end of everything so it cannot just be ignored. Vonnegut is demonstrating that each human only has a certain amount of time to make their life important so we should respect that and treat everyone as equal.

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Representation of Tralfamadorian Time, and Human Time in Slaughterhouse-Five: Analytical Essay. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from
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